The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
by Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins, 2002 , ISBN 0-06-001233-1
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
Maurice is an intelligent, talking cat--a somewhat unusual specimen even for Discworld. His "educated rodents" are a little band of intelligent, talking rats, and their company is further enlivened by the addition of a pipe-playing, stupid-looking boy. They travel around Discworld running a Pied Piper scam, and have accumulated a fair amount of wealth doing so. The rats, who have begun to develop a system of ethics and morality, think it's time to stop. Maurice, on the other hand, is a cat. The only system of ethics a self-respecting cat will acknowledge is the one that says "It's all my stuff." The rats, though, are adamant, and Maurice reluctantly, and perhaps not entirely sincerely, agrees that the next town will be their last scam, and then they'll divide the money and go their separate ways.
The next town is Bad Blintz.
Bad Blintz already has a plague of rats, ferocious rat-catchers, and a shortage of food because the rats are doing such an effective job of stealing it. And yet, when the rats move into the rat tunnels, they find--no rats. No rats at all. At least, no living rats; they do find the occasional dead rat, and lots of rat poison and very nasty rat traps. Maurice and the stupid-looking boy (whose name is Keith) meet the Mayor's daughter, Malicia, who catches on to the fact that Maurice talks because her head is completely filled with stories and she doesn't realize that the real world isn't supposed to work that way. The distorted facts that Malicia gives them, combined with what the rats learn, gradually reveal a wicked plot, and behind the plot there lurks real evil. The courageous rats and the plucky kids won't quit until they untangle the whole mess, but it's Maurice who suffers the most painful experience of all--the awful discovery that he has a conscience after all.